July 18, 2013 The Soo Locks

We woke to a cloudy, rainy, hot, and humid day and decided to go downtown and check out the Soo Locks Visitor Center.

“The Soo Locks are a set of parallel locks which enable ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. They are located on the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario. They bypass the rapids of the river, where the water falls 21 feet (7 m).

The locks pass an average of 10,000 ships per year, despite being closed during the winter from January through March, when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes. The winter closure period is used to inspect and maintain the locks.

The locks share a name with the two cities named Sault Ste. Marie, in Ontario and in Michigan, located on either side of the St. Mary's River.

The U.S. locks form part of a 1.6-mile (2.6-km) canal formally named the St. Mary's Falls Canal. The entire canal, including the locks, is owned and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which provides free passage. The first iteration of the U.S. Soo Locks was completed in May 1855, and operated by the State of Michigan until transferred to the U.S. Army in 1881.

The current configuration consists of four parallel lock chambers, each running east to west; starting at the Michigan shoreline and moving north toward Ontario, these are:”

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An overall view of the Lock area:

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We spent some time in the visitor center taking in the movies and the exhibits.  They had two webcams on the locks.  They can be found here:


There was also this cool map which showed the location of all the ships in the Great Lakes.  That can be found here:


More information can be found here:


Once the ships get to a certain point coming to the locks, their time is posted in the visitor center so we were really lucky to be there when one of these huge vessels came through the locks.

Here she comes into the Poe Lock:

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Check out the small tour boat in the MacArthur Lock on the right:

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That ship was HUGE!!!

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This ship was going to Lake Superior from Lake Huron - a change of 21 feet.  Some comparison shots as we watched the ship rise:

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It was really cool to watch.  Andy and I have seen locks in many places in this country and they still fascinate me.

Check out the lifeboat:

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And there she goes on her way:

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The tour boat went first:

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In the above two pictures, the yellow colored bridge is the international bridge between Sault Ste Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.  The darker colored bridge is the railroad bridge.  Notice the raised portion - done when ships are coming in.

It rained on and off most of the morning and afternoon.  We went to lunch in town and then took a road trip along the canals.  Another ship coming in:

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Notice the small tour boat on the right - what a contrast!

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On Saturday, the weather forecast is sunny and cooler so we are hoping to take a boat tour then.

Check out this building - hydroelectric power plant:

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We made it home, just before another big storm.  And the rains continued on and off all night.

Enjoy today!

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